WHY I LOVE TRAIL
Radio’s Vassos Alexander
Known to millions as the sports presenter on BBC Radio 2’s Chris Evans Breakfast Show, Vassos Alexander often runs in to the studio for the early starts. A relative newcomer to the world of off-road running, he has still completed the 153-mile Spartathlon and South Downs Way 100, and has also clocked a sub-three-hour marathon time. Last year he attempted the Dragon’s Back Race in Wales, too. Running in nature seems to connect me very strongly to where I am. That’s true even when I’m running in a smelly city street, but especially so in nature. I can run over hills which have probably been run on hundreds and hundreds of years ago. I love the feeling of just being outside, being uncomfortable. We live such cosseted lives and when you’re outside and you’re running and you’ve got to adapt – I love that.
My in-laws live in the South Downs and I love going to visit, not just because I love my in-laws,
but also because I love running in the Downs. The Jurassic Coast of Dorset would definitely also be up there on a list of my favourite trails. One of my favourite ever runs was in the Isle of Wight, the downs there. But anywhere new and beautiful. I love running in the Alps as well.
The Dragon’s Back was kind of
a life highlight. I was quite new to mountains and it was startlingly fantastic, breathtaking, a beautiful and brutal introduction to the joys of mountain running and I am utterly hooked. I can’t wait for 2019. I’m gutted it’s only every two years because I can’t wait to give it a proper crack – without a dodgy ankle – in 2019. In direct contrast to the Dragon’s Back race, the Spartathlon trail itself
was nothing special, although there is a 4,000ft mountain to climb at night, so it’s not entirely on the road. But the people and the history and the atmosphere surrounding that race were truly colossal, utterly epic – from the first mile under the Acropolis in Athens as dawn breaks, to the 153rd mile, 30 hours later, where you kiss the foot of the statue of Leonidas. Every single step along the way was awe-inspiring.
I run in a pair of Salomons, the only thing that was currently available in my size in the shop. I’m quite fussy in my road shoes, in that I just have the same road shoes every time, but with trail shoes I don’t have the experience or the skill to be fussy.
I am thrilled when anyone says they’ve taken up running because of something I or Chris [Evans]
has said on the show. So, I don’t really care about me, my times. It’s more about spreading the love, spreading the word. Also, there’s not much pressure on me because I’m not a particularly good runner and I’m not a particularly bad runner. I can break three hours in a marathon, but that’s nothing special, and I can finish a Spartathlon, so I suppose I have reasonable endurance, but I don’t feel I have anything to prove or disprove. It’s not about me, it’s about the sport.
Vassos Alexander’s new book, Running Up That Hill: The Highs and Lows of Going that Bit Further, is out now.